Creating a quality website with little or no knowledge of HTML or other programming languages is no longer the challenge that it once was. With the evolution of blogging platforms, wikis and other web-based content management systems, you can now build a web presence for your organization or projects with little more than some extra time on your hands. Here are a few free hosted solutions that will put you on your way to a website without having to write a lick of code:
- Blogs: In addition to the popular weblog platforms such as Wordpress and Blogger, check out the tumblelog offerings, which land somewhere between weblogs and micro-blogging sites like Twitter. My current favorite is tumblr, which is extremely easy to use, allows you to post from your mobile device, offers a really nifty Firefox plug-in, and (with a little bit of effort or a free theme) is fully customizable.
- Wikis: Most hosted wikis don't make for particularly good general purpose websites, but wetpaint is an exception. Wetpaint's innovative social publishing platform allows you to effortlessly post and edit text and multimedia content in a wiki-like environment, as well as to easily customize the overall look and feel. If you're looking to build a website to support an online community, and can put up with a few Google ads, wetpaint is a good option.
- Other options: If the blog or wiki platforms above aren't the right fit for your project, consider Google Sites and Roxer. Google Sites, which we've showcased before in a Free Friday post on project management solutions, is somewhat of a hybrid. It supports collaboration (like a wiki) and fairly robust permissioning, but has a more traditional website feel. Roxer, while not big on collaboration, is one of the most innovative hosted website solutions that I've seen. As its website claims, "now anyone can create beautiful websites online in just minutes." It truly takes WYSIWYG to an entirely new level.
Also be sure to check out the recent webinar by LSNTAP and Pro Bono Net on building program websites. In addition to great suggestions on finding the right platform and host, it provides helpful tips and resources on layout, design and incorporating multimedia. Also, for those states using the LawHelp template, ask your Circuit Rider about program sites, which are free to legal aid and public interest organizations. -M
From Brian Lawlor, Regional Counsel at LSNC:
Legal Services of Northern California has launched the Findability Project, a TIG-funded initiative to demonstrate how a Google Search Appliance, integrated with a SharePoint Server, can be used as a core technology for implementing enterprise-level search, and as the basic building block of an organization-wide knowledge-content system.
To keep up-to-date with the project be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed here. For more background, go here. We'll be following this project closely, and look forward to hearing from others who are implementing internal knowledge management and content sharing platforms at their organizations. (For example, using a wiki to share documents with a funder prior to a site visit.) -M
I spent about 20 minutes playing with the recently launched Google Sites (fka JotSpot) this morning. Like most Google Apps, the interface is intuitive and there's lots of flexibility. It was easy to integrate into our organization's domain (we use Google's non-profit/education edition for email) and allows you to add calendars, presentations, attachments, etc. to a dashboard as well as create file directories and custom pages. You can also share it for viewing or editing with a defined group, your organization, or publicly. Overall, I like it better than many other online collaboration tools that I've used, both for the ease of integration with other Google Apps and its simple access and interface controls. -M